Part of the crew of the clipper HMS Guardian, under the command of Lieutenant Edward Riou, endeavouring to escape in the boats from the stricken ship.

Hand coloured aquatint engraving.

Published July 1st, 179, . London, by J. & J. Boydell.

A fine impression of the rare, separately issued aquatint.

SKU SF000762 Category


Guardian, under the command of the twenty six year old Lieutenant Edward Riou, a veteran of Cook’s third voyage in Discovery, left London in July 1789 laden with two years’ provisions for the new settlement at Port Jackson.

When the colony of New South Wales was established in 1788, it was expected that supplies from England would arrive at regular intervals. However Guardian, one of the first two supply ships to be sent, never arrived. On Christmas Eve, twelve days out of Cape Town, the ship hit an iceberg in a dark fog and was badly damaged. Working furiously in formidable gales, the crew heaved most of the vast stores overboard and worked the pumps until they failed. With water pouring into the hull of the ship, Riou ordered the boats to be lowered and allowed those who wished to leave to enter them. This splendid aquatint by Robert Dodd (1748 1816), the famous marine painter of the period, is an heroic rendition of this dramatic and terrifying scene.

The description printed below is a poignant commentary of events: ‘.. all the Exertions of the Officers and Crew at the pumps could not keep the Ship free, and being in a sinking state from the Numerous leaks, chief part of the Crew were out with fatigue, abandoned themselves to despair and the fate of the Ship, while those who had a little strength betook to the Boats’. Of the three boats which took to the icy waters, only those in the launch were rescued. Miraculously, and somewhat ironically, all sixty two people who were too exhausted and despondent to attempt escape in the boats and remained on board the ship survived. They were eventually towed into Table Bay on 21 February 1790. Edward Riou was hailed a hero, and he in turn recommended that the twenty one convicts on board be pardoned for their courageous conduct.

Three accounts of the disaster were published immediately in 1790, as well as this magnificent aquatint by Robert Dodd (1748 1816), a well known marine painter of the period. The double column caption gives a description of the disaster in the form of the text of a letter from Riou to the Admiralty (Nan Kivell & Spence, p. 265, illus. p. 293).

Additional information



Robert Dodd


Ink, Paper